Spirit Airlines on Defense After Passenger Claims She Was Sexually Assaulted Midflight — and Crew Did Nothing to Help

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A Michigan woman is speaking out after she claims a man slid his hand “basically in my pants” as she slept aboard a Spirit Airlines flight bound for Detroit this week.

What’s worse, Tia Jackson said the flight crew took the situation lightly and did very little to help her.

Tia Jackson
Tia Jackson, 22, is demanding an apology from Spirit Airlines after she claims staff did little to help her after she was sexually assaulted by a male passenger. (Photos: FOX 2 Detroit video screenshot, Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Jackson, a third-year student at Eastern Michigan University, was heading back from Atlanta early Tuesday when the incident unfolded. She’d dozed off as the flight neared Detroit Metro Airport and awoke to feel the man in the next seat over rubbing her thigh and reaching in her pants.

“When he touched me, that’s what made me wake up,” Jackson told The Detroit Free Press.” I woke up to a hand in my pants, and I felt his skin touch my skin. It was so gross.”

She noticed the man was using a large coat to hide his dirty deeds; he had one hand down her pants while the other was moving his penis.

“I said, ‘hey, get off me … stop touching me!’ ” the 22-year-old recalled. “And while in the process of me making a scene, he’s trying to assist me, and pat me. And he starts saying, ‘No, no, no, no, no.”

After exchanging words with the man, Jackson said she immediately hit the call button to alert the flight crew. Their response wasn’t what she expected, however.

Jackson said the flight attendants didn’t move the man like she asked, but instead suggested that “if it was such a problem” she should be the one to move to another seat. Once the plane landed,  the college student said her attacker was allowed to leave scot-free.

No one followed up when she stayed behind either, so she filed a complaint with airport police.

“I am most upset about the fact that they took it so lightly,” Jackson said of the flight attendants. “Not one person asked if I was OK. … The passengers got more upset than the staff. I would like an apology at least.”

Spirit Airlines defended itself against the claims in a statement, saying the flight crew learned of the incident 18 minutes before arriving in at the airport in the Detroit suburb of Romulus. It said a flight attendant did direct Jackson to another seat, however, she refused because she didn’t want to be separated from a friend who was seated in the row with her.

“The cabin crew wanted to move her, as opposed to him, because the move would’ve left him with an empty seat on one side and an aisle on the other,” the statement read. “By the time the guest declined to move, landing was imminent and everyone had to be seated as required by federal regulation.”

“Law enforcement began its investigation immediately after the flight arrived,” it added.

The incident has also been reported to the FBI, agency spokeswoman Mara Schneider confirmed to The Detroit News.

Jackson said she received a partial refund from Spirit, but what she really wants are an apology and accountability.

“I feel like he needs to be held accountable, for sure, because if he was bold enough to try this today, I don’t know how many times he’s been friendly on other flights,” she said.

Watch more in the clip below.

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